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Epic Mickey developer Junction Point closes (update)

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Epic Mickey developer Junction Point Studio closed its doors, a Disney representative confirmed to Polygon today. The Disney-owned Austin, Tex.-based studio employed about 160 people in early 2012.

"It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our Games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios," a representative for the company told Polygon. "These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We're extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2."

A Disney representative also confirmed that Spector has left Disney Interactive following Junction Point's closure.

Since the news was announced, employees from the company have been leaving Junction Point's North Austin headquarters with their personal effects. After remaining relatively quiet after rumors of the company's closure began to circulate yesterday afternoon, a few of those recently laid off have taken to Twitter to seek new employment.

Sources close to the studio tell Polygon most of the staff at Junction Point had been on paid leave since the developer completed work on Epic Mickey 2.

The returning staff didn't seem to be sure as to whether or not the company would be closed wholesale before meeting today at 10 a.m. CT. Polygon spoke to one employee in the parking lot as they were entering the building, who said that they weren't sure what would happen when the studio met today. We were turned away from the building by representatives for the company, who said that no press inquiries would be addressed today.

Following the meeting, a slow trickle of employees left the building with their personal effects. A truck from Iron Mountain, a company specializing in "data management," arrived; presumably to transport or destroy company documents.

At last year's San Diego Comic-Con, Junction Point co-founder Warren Spector said he had designs for a third Epic Mickey game, but was unsure if it would go into production.

"I already know what the third one's going to be if enough of you buy it," he said of Epic Mickey 2.

Junction Point's most recent title, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, was released in November. According to a report from the LA Times citing the NPD Group, sales of the sequel lagged far behind its predecessor during a similar holiday period.

In an interview with Polygon last year, Spector said he saw a future in connectivity between smartphones and traditional gaming platforms.

"I make the games I want to make," he said. "I'm going to continue to do that. Anybody who doesn't work for Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, who isn't thinking about 'How do I get a billion people with an Android, iOS or Microsoft phone in their pocket? How do they interact with my hardware?' If they're not thinking about that, they're not thinking hard enough."

Junction Point Studio was founded by Warren Spector and Art Min in 2004. The developer was acquired by Disney Interactive in 2007. Junction Point's debut effort, Epic Mickey, was released on the Wii in 2010. A sequel was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, PC and Nintendo 3DS last year.

Disney Interactive shuttered two of its game development studios in 2011: Propaganda Games (Turok, Tron: Evolution) and Black Rock Studio (Pure, Split Second). The division has seen two restructurings over the past two years, resulting in the elimination of an estimated 250 jobs. The company seems to have focused all of its resources on Disney Infinity, the upcoming cross-platform sandbox action game from Avalanche Software.

Update: Polygon has learned that the studio's former employees have indeed been on leave since the completion of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two in November. Folks who were laid off today had no formal forewarning that the studio would be shut down, but are receiving severance packages, the details of which were not disclosed. Furthermore, Disney retains the rights to the IP of Epic Mickey, but has no plans for the franchise at this time.

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